28 September 1998: Experts have released new scientific information at a medical
conference in the US which shows that an inhaled influenza drug, zanamivir, is
effective for both treatment and prevention of the influenza infection.
"Zanamivir is a new antiviral that stops influenza dead in its tracks," said
Professor Chris Silagy, Flinders Medical Centre, South Australia. "It is given
by the inhaled route so the medicine goes straight to where the influenza virus
infects the body -- in the breathing passages. By inhaling zanamivir, the drug
gets to the site of infection faster than taking it by mouth."
New information from two phase III clinical trials was presented at the
meeting*. The findings from the treatment trial, conducted in Australia, New
Zealand and South Africa were:
- Patients treated with the inhaled drug zanamivir experienced a significant
reduction in the severity of their symptoms (such as feverishness, cough,
weakness, aches and pains), so much so that they recovered from the illness on
average as much as 2.5 days earlier than those who did not receive the drug.
- Patients at risk of developing complications (which can include pneumonia,
bronchitis and pleurisy) as a result of having influenza, experienced a 70 per
cent reduction in complications if given zanamivir.
- Patients on zanamivir experienced no more side-effects than those on placebo
(a dummy version of the medicine).
Overall, patients taking zanamivir felt:
- Their health improved more quickly.
- They could get back to normal activities more quickly.
In a second trial conducted in the US, where patients took zanamivir once a day
for 28 days to prevent flu, it was found that:
Two thirds of patients who had not been vaccinated against influenza and were
given zanamivir were protected from being ill with flu. Those patients who did
get ill were less likely to develop illness with fever when receiving zanamivir.
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